As the Western Athletic Conference moves east, the University of Hawaii looks west — to the East.
No need to be confused. We’re talking about that other East, the one that includes Japan, where the sun rises and apparently so does the popularity of UH football.
If you happen to be in Tokyo on Nov. 11, you could see Hawaii pasting Charleston Southern again on TV … and this time, if your Japanese is good, you might comprehend the commentary.
After a successful debut last season, Warriors games are again being televised by a network in Japan. The difference this year is the play-by-play and color analysis are being translated into Japanese.
The games produced and telecast here will be available to more than 600,000 homes in Japan through a collaborative effort of Pac Rim Sports Initiative, UH, Oceanic Time-Warner and KHNL-KFVE.
This year the Hawaii Tourism Authority has kicked in $50,000 to defray production costs incurred by Pac Rim.
Former UH linebacker Ross Yamasaki is an architect by trade, but also one of the Pac Rim partners and a key player in coordinating the translation efforts and the indoctrination of UH sports in Japan.
"We put some money into it last year and this year so it’s good to get some of that back," Yamasaki said. "There’s a lot of sweat equity, too, by us as well as many others who want to see this succeed."
The HTA — under the leadership of CEO Mike McCartney and the efforts of Mike Story, who heads up its sports tourism arm — has shown more interest in projects involving UH lately.
"We’ve had a good relationship with the HTA and it’s getting stronger every year," athletic director Jim Donovan said. "I believe they see the value of UH sports as a marketing tool for the state. Everyone saw what a positive the ESPN broadcast of the USC game was for exposure for Hawaii. Showing our games in Japan is another way to keep Hawaii in front of a target market for tourism."
Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that Pat Hill and June Jones were talking about Hawaii and Fresno State playing each other in Japan. The way things are now, we’re not even sure if the Warriors and Bulldogs will ever meet again anywhere after this Saturday’s game in Fresno.
There has, however, been some preliminary movement on the Warriors and a BCS-level team teeing it up in Tokyo within the next few years.
Hawaii could be out on its own by then, as it appears more and more likely UH should and will abandon the sinking WAC. A game across the Pacific in the other direction wouldn’t address the scheduling problems of being an independent, since no AD of a conference member who likes his job would agree to such an endeavor in October or November. Those are the months when opponents will be scarce, unless there is a larger pool of independents to draw upon.
Right now it’s just Army, Navy, BYU and Notre Dame for sure, but don’t be surprised if soon there are more indies in college football than at an artsy film festival.
At any rate, it’s time to get creative with scheduling.
Thinking outside of the box might mean thinking outside of North America. Hawaii playing a game in Japan or Australia makes sense. The trick will be convincing potential opponents that the same is true for them.
To see it from their perspective, ponder this: What if the Fighting Irish wanted to play Hawaii … in Ireland?